Baby boomers have always been a generation unto themselves – a cohort so vast, their every inclination seems to become a cultural watershed. Now, a group of three 60-somethings has a new riff on a distinctly boomer trend: encore careers. An estimated 9 million Americans aged 44 to 70 have launched second careers, and a quarter of boomers plan to follow suit, according to a MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures survey.
“Instead of starting a business like so many other boomers, we reunited to do what we started when we were in our 20s,” says Glenn Leopold, the 66-year-old vocalist, guitarist and songwriter for Gunhill Road, (www.gunhillroadmusic.com), a rock band known for its 1973 hit, “Back When My Hair Was Short.”
The group broke up in 1976 and the musicians went on to pursue more traditional careers: Hollywood writer, businessman, and tradesman. They would not reunite until 2011, when they got together to perform at a benefit.
“I was wondering what my third act was going to be when my mother died” following that performance, Leopold says. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to get together with the guys again and record?’ ’’
He, 64-year-old vocalist, pianist and songwriter Steve Goldrich, and 66-year-old vocalist and bass player Paul Reisch did just that this year. Every 40 Years is their first album in, well, 40 years.
In yet another reunion, they also got a well-positioned industry advocate -- Michael Harrison, the 66-year-old publisher of two leading radio industry trade publications, Talkers and RadioInfo.
Harrison had been a 22-year-old DJ at WNEW-FM “The New Groove,” New York City’s trend-setting rock station, back when Gunhill Road was trying to hit the big time.
“Back then, we chose the music we played – we weren’t restricted to playing just certain songs or artists,” Harrison says. “I heard Gunhill Road and I loved their sound, the poetry of their lyrics. I played the heck out of them.”
The band took note and thanked their favorite DJ with a handmade gold record.
The new album has been a fun opportunity for all four men – a chance to finish old business and rekindle friendships.
“Whenever we were in the studio, the time went by so quickly,” says pianist Goldrich.
Leopold and Goldrich offer these tips for boomers who want their “encore” to be a revival of a youthful pursuit:
- Keep your expectations realistic.
“Reuniting to record together was more about having fun and seeing what we could do than trying to hit the top 40, although we would like to do that, too!” Leopold says.
“We’re not going to be superstars -- no one’s even thinking about that. We enjoy being with each other and we hope there’s a fan base who will enjoy the music. This project has kept us in touch, and that’s been a great thing.”
Goldrich says, “It is art for the sake of art and that is a wonderful concept.”
Adds Harrison: “This is an absolutely superb band.”
- Realize times have changed and you may have to, too.
The old paths to success in the music industry have virtually disappeared.
“It’s all different,” Leopold says. “Music is given away free. You need to get a song on TV or in a movie; play live; and sell a ton of merchandise.”
Harrison is helping them find new ways of getting exposure.
“There’s a website of course – they wouldn’t have had that 40 years ago!” he says. “And getting a song played on mainstream radio isn’t the same as it was back in the ‘70s, but there are still plenty of alternative stations and talk radio is showing great interest in their story. You just have to be creative.”
- If it’s not fun anymore, don’t do it!
The Gunhill Road musicians discovered they still get along well and enjoy making music together, but they might have discovered just the opposite.
“If there were tensions among us, if we didn’t like how we sound together now, or if it felt too much like work, we would have quit recording,” Leopold says.
“There’s no reason to spend whatever time we have left doing something that makes us miserable, if we can help it,” adds Goldrich.
Published: Jan. 15, 2015 - Volume 13 - Issue 40